For Sher Bahadur the events of 25th April 2015 were not entirely unexpected; he had seen it all before. Sher Bahdur was 11 years old back in 1934, living in a small settlement of twelve houses in the open fields of the Kathmandu valley. Now Nikoshera is a village of 160 houses. People began to move here after 1934 – or 1990, as it is under the Nepali calendar – leaving their collapsed houses in Bhaktapur.
“That earthquake was much more devastating, but there were fewer aftershocks than in 2015. Only two people died in our locality – seven people died here this time. But it was really frightening back then”.
This time Sher Bahadur was on the second floor of his house. When the earth started to shake, his grandson, Raj Kiran, was across the road in another house. Raj saw his grandfather’s house falling down and ran to carry him out – luckily, uninjured. Sher Bahadur wasn’t afraid.
But after second earthquake on May 12th 2015 Sher Bahadur became more disturbed, imagining that people are coming to hurt him. At one point his family took him to hospital as the fears became too much.
Sadly, the treatment he was given hasn’t really helped and Raj Kiran says his grandfather’s mood is not so good these days. Sher Bahadurs’ memory is beginning to fail, but his younger years are still vivid in his mind.
“Most of the time Sher Bahadur stays at home, looking after the children. His great grandson, my first son, will be born a month from now, says Raj Kiran. “Eagerness to see him is what keeps my grandfather alive”
Ratna Maya is 95 years old. In 1934 she lived in Thimi, a village neighbouring Nikoshera. She was in the kitchen cooking roti when the earthquake struck. She was able to run out of the house, helped by her brother. Four other members of her family were not so lucky.
She too, says the earthquake of 1934 felt much more strong and was much more devastating. This time she wasn’t nearly as afraid as she was as a 13 year old girl. In 2015, although she was on the 3rd floor of a house, the building was left standing.
Back in 1934 Ratna Maya and her family lived for 5 months in an half-collapsed house with only beams above their heads. There were no tarpaulins or tin sheets in those days, and life was really miserable. “It was difficult to get food. Rice that was strewn on the ground I scratched from the mud with my hands” tells Ratna Maya. “Back then it took much longer time for people to psychologically recover and become ready to rebuild their houses”.
“I remember that in Kathmandu city centre, the Ghanta Ghar building (a tower with a clock on it near Ratna Park – not the Sundara tower which fell down in 2015!) fell apart into 3 pieces. At that time, money were just scattered on the road but people were afraid to pick it up – they feared it would bring more trouble”.
Ratna Maya will not be running out of her kitchen at the next earthquake; these days she just stays at home, too weak to walk.
You can see Ratna Maya and Sher Bahadur tell their stories: